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June 3, 1968

Q Fever: A Common Treatable Cause of Endemic Nonbacterial Pneumonia

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, New England Medical Center Hospitals, Boston. Dr. Musher was formerly Chief of Internal Medicine at the 3640th US Air Force Hospital, Laredo Air Force Base, Tex.

JAMA. 1968;204(10):863-866. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140230021005

In an area known for endemic Q fever, eight of 52 cases of nonbacterial pneumonia were proven to be caused by infection with Coxiella burnettii. Intimate contact with a possible source of infection was excluded in all patients and dust-borne transmission of the rickettsial organism from animal to man was implicated. Symptoms, physical findings, and laboratory and roentgenographic data were similar to those previously described in Q fever and were indistinguishable from those found in viral or mycoplasmal pneumonia. All patients treated with tetracycline showed a dramatic response within 24 hours. Q fever must be considered in the diagnosis whenever nonbacterial pneumonia occurs in late summer or early fall in an area where Q fever is endemic. Early diagnosis and treatment will significantly reduce morbidity.